The Content Creation Process That Will Save You Time & Money (and 1 free tool that will make your life easier)

When you start a new site or blog, you tend to be filled with excitement and motivation considering the realm of possibilities opened before you. You make tons of plans and have a very optimistic vision of the future.

But as weeks go and you have to actually put a ton of work in order to achieve mediocre results (at first). It’s hard to stick to your plans and keep a clear vision of what has to be done in terms of content.

​That’s why I shared the sitemap creation strategy and keyword research tactics with you earlier but this only covers planning.

When it comes to actually getting stuff done in content creation, you need a collaborative system that allows you to work as a team if you chose to outsource. All that while keeping a clear vision of where bottle necks are.

The rest of this post will be sharing the process I use to get content done, either out​sourced or written by myself. Enjoy.

Why planning and organizing content is important

​The fact that I’m preaching people to get organized must be pretty funny for my friends. Mostly because I’m a very disorganized person in the other parts of my life. But I’ve grown to appreciate the power of well oiled systems in internet marketing.

Here’s the most significant gains I observed when I switched from a non sequenced content creation system to a sequenced content creation system:​

  1. ​Having your content scheduled keeps you accountable and prevents you from “slacking off”
  2. Having a schedule keeps your team organized and makes the bottle necks stand out.
  3. Because slow people and processes stand out, you identify them and can fix them faster.
  4. This system can be automated, scaled and allow to take yourself out of it.

The 10,000 feet view

1- The roles

The roles defined here are the roles I use mostly because I work with a bunch of people. If you’re a one man band, you will automatically assume all these roles but the systems described bellow still apply.

In the system I use, there’s really only 3 roles:

The Admin

admin role concept

The admin is usually Mark or I. You’re responsible for giving a direction to the content team, uncovering content gaps and correct the process when needed.

I usually come up with content ideas and angles then pass it to the editor and review the content before it goes live.

The Editor

editor role concept

The editor is the buffer between the admin and the writers, they make sure the content is delivered on time and on specs.

They’re also the guardians of quality and ultimately responsible for maintaining your standards.

​They can be the same person as the admin or someone else.

The Writer

writer role concept

These people are the people actually writing the content. They are working directly with the editor to receive their tasks and feedback.​

They’re usually topic experts freelancers paid per article​.

They don’t just write the content, they also promote it on their specialist social channels and reply to people’s comments on their articles.​

2 – The process

Here is a rough outline of the mental process we go through when we publish any piece of content online. This process is often modified for the different needs we may have. For example if we need illustrations, we’ll add that step in the “in production” step.

Stage 1 - Idea

This stage relies entirely on the admin or editor. They basically set the direction for the piece. They have to come up with the following:

create concept

  • Content piece concept and angle
  • SEO Keywords
  • Timeline for production
  • The best writer to produce the piece
  • A proposed price for the production of the piece.

I describe how to come up with ideas and organize them in this post.

​Stage 2 - Pending writer approval

At this stage, the writer receives the specs you’ve put together along with the proposed price for it. They can either accept the offer, refuse the offer or request changes in order to make it acceptable.​

engage concept

A few things to watch out for at this stage are:​

  • ​Making sure the writer understood the assignment
  • Making sure the payment modalities are understood

Stage 3 - In production

At that stage, the work is pending on the writer to complete. Once completed, the writer submits the article to the editor for review.

writer writing

This to watch out for at this stage:​

  • Make sure the writer has everything he needs to complete the work.
  • Follow up on submission deadlines.

Stage 4 - Content review

At this stage, the admin or editor receive the content and do the following:

review concept

  • Check that the content is on spec
  • Check that the content is non plagiarized
  • Check for SEO
  • Push back for additional points / additional info

it’s very common for the content to go back and forth between this stage and stage 3 until it reaches a satisfactory level of quality. You will usually judge your writers on the number of iterations needed at that stage to reach the acceptable stage.

Stage 5 - Pending publication

After the content itself has been approved, it’s time to make it look good! If you’re still reading that post so far it’s probably because I spent a ton of time formatting it! Here’s the tasks constituting this stage:

publication concept

  • Upload content on CMS.
  • Break down into readable chunks (usually 3-4 lines/paragraph max).
  • Create and add relevant graphics, videos, tables etc.
  • Schedule a publication date in the CMS

Stage 6 Pending payment

Because you will probably not pay your writers right after they submit each article they produce for you, you need to build a repository of what you owe them and define a payment frequency.

payment concept

The tasks associated with that stage are fairly simple:​

  • Add the article to the payment queue
  • Remove articles when paid

Choosing the right technical implementation

Now that we’ve broken down the conceptual model of what I think is a reasonably good content creation process, it’s time to look at how this can be implemented in real life.

I’ve literally tried hundreds of todos and work collaboration apps. They all have their pros and cons and to be honest, none of them really is made for content creation.

But since we need to pick one, here’s what I’m looking for in a system I use for content creation:

  1. ​It’s mostly task based, not discussion based. We want to get stuff done, not debate about it.
  2. You can create sub tasks. Each stage has a task list and you need to be able to tick tasks without moving the stage if you want to.
  3. It allows for a reasonable amount of communication and notifications. When you handle dozens of pieces at the same time, you want to be able to see what’s been updated and where your attention is needed.

For all these reasons and because I’m cheap, I picked Trello as my default content creation management software. It’s 100% Free and I’ve prepared a little tutorial on how to use it with the system I’ve described earlier:

Closing thoughts

Creating content IS hard, but if you’re going to go through that painful endeavor, you might as well go all the way and rip the benefits of very high quality content as opposed to producing something mediocre.

Using a system such as the system described above will make the whole process a lot more manageable and most importantly drastically raise the quality of the content you may be producing.

Remember, the benefits of content creation grow exponentially with quality:​

content roi

Do you have any comment or suggestion on this system? Then let me know in the comment section!

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21 Comments

  1. Fantastic post!! Ive been following on very closely as im in the process of building an authority site. Some very valuable tips. Please never stop sharing

  2. Hi Gael,

    thanks for lining out the process of good content creation. I’ve been using your tool (CopyCog) for a month now or so and it has helped me get more organized and have birds eye view on our content. I believe we’ll be moving our entire content production over to CopyCog. Looking forward to testing the new writers marketplace, maybe we’ll find some gems there :)

    1. Hey Marucio,

      Yep, Copycog is basically the embodiment of that concept. I’ll probably redo that post when we launch the marketplace publicly but I’ll ping you on Skype to get you on the beta :).

      Gael

  3. Thanks Gael,
    Great work flow for doing this. I’d like to create a template to manage a little differently, where can I access instructions on how you created your template, or where can I access your template?
    Thank for your help.

  4. Hey Gael,

    Awesome post. I love the content you guys are producing at the moment, especially seeing as you have a number of sites to write content for!

    The process is almost akin to an a Newspaper editor and their Journalists. Its made me want to investigate the processes they used and see if I cant gleam a few tweaks from it!

    (Loving going through old marketing and sales methods recently and tweaking them for the tools we have today. Too often people use a “twitter method” but have no idea behind the actual reasoning or psychology behind the original school of thought!)

    I digress apologies!
    We currently use the free version of Asana to do a similar system.
    Love the internal messaging for no email distractions and the iphone app

    We used to outsource content creation, and hired high end writers for content, but we have since found it cheaper to hire full time staff to perform 2 roles

    Im hesitant to give this away, but it may help you Gael.
    We build a system we like to call the “Community Manager” for each client. A member of staff is dedicated to that client
    Each month they not only research the industry and the competitors, but they interact online with that clients ideal customers.
    They learn the trends, build relationships and reverse engineer competitors work.
    They find questions that need answering, perform outreach of content and best of all find content ideas that the actual clients customers are asking and not getting answered.
    The client gets backlinks, content, new readers and engaged leads.
    The leads brought in this way convert much higher than any other method we are using so far!
    There’s more to it than this, but you get the idea!

    Stay awesome and bon chance!

    Daniel Daines-Hutt
    (FYI read “work the system” anyone here who wants to simplify their life!)

  5. Hi Gael,

    Great post about your content creation process.

    BTW – your LeadPlayer video link and the Trello sample link above are both broken…

    My question:
    If you pay a writer to create a piece of content, do you publish it under their name or your own name? How does that usually work?

    I assume you own the copyright when you pay to have content created / written?

    With thanks

    Pete

  6. Hi Gael,

    Thanks for this great post to get content creation be well organized.

    I tweeted your content, but the unlocked content does not seem to be accessible (content not to be seen without sign up on Trello, and videos to be played through leadplayer not available): thanks in advance for restoring access to the information.

    And a big thanks for providing regularly such useful information.

    Sophie (from France)

  7. Hi Gaël, I noticed that the link to the Trello card wasn’t working. A lot of people were asking about it. So I took the liberty to replicate it from my own Trello account and share it here:
    Click this link to download the Trello template: https://trello.com/c/jIdHUwcN
    Keep up with your good content, really appreciate reading quality articles.
    Cheers.

  8. Hey Gael, great article, love the way you guys do things. I realize you guys are using Thrive right, but those of us who can’t afford that yet, what other option you think is good to use. Oh and I have been enjoying your emails.

  9. Its amazing – its the same process I formulate for myself, just instead of
    hiring the editor, I do the job myself.
    It is not easy finding good quality writer, which are affordable…
    You have to spend money and try a few, and the process may be frustrating
    Anyway, amazing article! Thanks so much!
    (i use odesk for hiring writers)

  10. After working on content for so many years, I would still say that content production in hard — particularly the editing stage. When you work on articles that are typically 5000+ words or more, the usual mindset of a quick fix simply won’t cut it. This is where having a solid system in place comes to help. By the way, there’s a tools called CoSchedule which is mainly used as an editorial calendar, in case someone wants to check it out.

    Tom

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